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Posts tagged ‘Tricia Ebarvia’

From the Classroom: The Pressure to Do Versus the Possibilities of Doing

by Tricia Ebarvia

Whenever I blog, especially here for PAWLP, I try to offer fellow teachers some practical strategies to use in the classroom. After all, I know how I much I appreciate picking up ideas that I can try with my own students right away, sometimes even the very next day.

Of course, now that summer is just about here—tomorrow is our last official day with students!—there is no more “very next day.” Instead, as the weather warms and lazy days at the pool run together, the planning for next year begins. Sometimes the planning is purposeful: reading pedagogy texts or writing up lesson ideas. But other times, the planning is a little more serendipitous: stumbling upon the perfect article for class or finding inspiration while on an errand to the store. Summer may be here, but I’ve found that my “teacher brain” never really goes on vacation.

Without the pressure of “the very next day,” the ideas I come across during summer have room to sit, and breathe. There’s no pressure to do—simply the possibilities of doing. The extra time summer offers allows me to think this could work or maybe I’ll try this or what could that look like?

Summer, then, becomes a time to reflect on another year gone by and to gather new ideas for the year ahead. How? Below are just a few of the things I’ll be doing this summer to reflect and re-energize:  Read more

From the Classroom: Second Draft Reading

by Tricia Ebarvia

As I walk around the room, I notice students talking—generally enthusiastically—about the book we are reading. They have a few discussion questions on a handout to take notes, which they dutifully fill out. What I don’t notice are any books open on their desks. In fact, I see many students with no books out at all, and what books are out are closed on their desks.

“Mrs. Ebarvia, do you know remember what Piggy said to Jack when they went to Castle Rock?”

“Sure, I remember.”

Pause. Expectant looks.

“You know, you could open your book to find out,” I suggest. My students smile and begin searching their books.

Years ago, when I first read Kelly Gallagher’s Deeper Reading during the PAWLP summer institute, one particular section that stood out to me was the chapter on “Deepening Comprehension through Second-Draft Reading.” In this chapter, Gallagher emphasizes the importance of getting students to go back to the text to reread:

Students need to return to the text to help them overcome their initial confusion, to work through the unfamiliarity of the work, to move beyond the literal, and to free up cognitive space for higher-level thinking. They need both a “down” reading draft to comprehend the basics and an “up” reading draft to explore the meaning. (80)

Those who have been teaching English long enough know that getting students to go back to the text can often be a difficult task. Having gotten the “jist” of the story on their first reading, students often see no need to go back to the text unless prompted.

Yet we also know that rereading is one of the first steps towards a deeper understanding of a text. When students reread, they can better appreciate craft—they can see the choices that an author made and question why. When a text is complex and students don’t “get it” the first time, rereading is not only a valuable but necessary move that students can make.

So how do we encourage students to go back to the text—to explore the text a second, or even third time?  Read more

From the Classroom: Finding “Moments Worth Writing About”

by Tricia Ebarvia

It’s just after 7:20 a.m. and my students are settling into their seats. Although it’s early, this class is usually lively, with students generally willing to try out whatever their English teacher has planned for them that day. This morning, I pass out cream-colored quarter sheets of paper and several tape dispensers. I go over the lesson plan to the sound of pages flipping, synchronized to the squeaky pulling and staccatoed tearing of tape. Into their notebook, students tape the following Willa Cather quotation:

“Most of the basic material a writer works with is acquired before the age of fifteen.”

Today is Day 1 in a brief unit on the personal history essay. I decided to call this next essay a personal history rather than the more familiar term memoir for a few reasons. One, the term memoir feels a little intimidating to me; the term has always implied a confessional quality to it, like a great secret is about to be shared, a great burden lifted. For better or worse, memoirs feel too big a task, too much to ask.

So instead, I like the term personal history. Read more

From the Classroom: Does Anyone Have Any Questions?

by Tricia Ebarvia

For years, whenever my students and I read a novel, I would pass out a study guide with a list of questions for each chapter. By giving students the study guide questions―questions I wrote―I could make sure that students wouldn’t miss anything in their reading. Too often, students would read too quickly and miss details. Requiring students to answer study guide questions was my way of getting them to slow down to notice what they were reading. To get them to see the dots that they could later connect together.

After we finished the novel, the next step would be a writing assignment. On that day, I would pass out a list of essay questions. I often included questions of varying difficulty in order to better differentiate instruction, and students could happily chose whichever essay question was most accessible (or least terrifying). In case none of the questions interested students, I always gave them the option of creating their own essay question (just so long as they reviewed it with me first).

Of course, rarely did students ever take me up on that option. After all, by creating essay questions for them, I had already sent the message that it was the teacher’s questions that mattered, not theirs. And while some students were more than happy to answer my questions―in fact, I think some of them preferred to―what I’ve come to realize that what I needed to focus on was getting students to answer their own questions about the text.  Read more

From the Classroom: Notes from PCTELA

By Tricia Ebarvia

pctela“What conference is it again?”

Pic TELL ah,” I said more slowly.

“Really? That’s not a real conference,” my colleague teased.

All I could do was smile.

To the uninitiated, PCTELA―short for the Pennsylvania Council of Teachers of English Language Arts―might sound like something you would make up. Or, at the very least, just another one of the many educational acronyms in our lives: SAT, ACT, PVAAS, IEP, GIEP, RTI. I have to admit that until a few years ago, I had never heard of PCTELA either. In fact, when I first started teaching in 2001, I don’t think I had heard of many professional teacher organizations, if any. Or, if I did, they didn’t register with me. I was probably too busy just trying to stay afloat in the happy chaos of teaching.

Soon enough—and thankfully—other acronyms became part of my teaching life. NCTE, NWP, PAWLP—these were the acronyms that mattered. And now, of course, I can add PCTELA to that list.  Read more

From the Classroom: The Power of the Booktalk

By Tricia Ebarvia

Although I’d been doing some form of independent reading for several years, with each year better than the one before, I came into last school year determined to commit in a way I hadn’t before. I wanted to find a way to make students’ independent reading a core component of their learning rather than something they did “on the side” or “in addition to” what we were doing in class.

Was I successful? I think so. Certainly there’s always room for improvement, but when I look back at last year, my 9th grade students together read more than 1000 books. That’s 1000 books in addition to the whole class novels they were assigned. That’s 1000 books I’m sure that would have gone unread had I not made the time in class for students to develop independent reading habits.
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